A Chinatown in South Korea - Korea-China Culture Town located in Gangwon province - expected to be completed in 2022 - has sparked anti-Chinese sentiment.
South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that a petition calling for an end to construction has gathered more than 415,000 signatures.
"An online petition has been filed on the Cheong Wa Dae [government] website recently, calling for an end to the ongoing construction of a Chinatown and Legoland in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province," reported an English-language newspaper The Korea Times, on March 31.
"The petitioner wrote that Koreans do not understand why Korea should provide cultural experiences from China, or why there should be a 'little China' in Korea."
Korea-China Culture Town will feature "a range of facilities and attractions", including traditional Chinese gardens, and will be 10 times the size of South Korea's only "official" Chinatown, in Incheon.
Mercedes Hutton, in an article in SCMP informed that the Korea-China Culture Town was planned - alongside the Legoland theme park, which will include a hotel catering to Chinese visitors - to drive tourism to the region, namely Chinese tourism.
Despite recent attempts at political rapprochement, with the two countries foreign ministers meeting in Xiamen on April 3 in what was South Korea's first ministerial-level visit to China since 2017, cultural relations remain strained.
Explaining their opposition to the development, the person who posted the petition wrote: "Even if exchanges and cooperation are important in Korea-China relations, it is incomprehensible amid recent cultural feuds."
According to The Korea Times, "The petitioner cited recent controversies caused by Chinese influencers and websites claiming kimchi, hanbok and other traditional Korean cultural items as their own, calling these an attempt to distort Korea's history and plunder Korean culture."
In 2019, before international tourism was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, South Korea recorded 17.5 million visitor arrivals, of whom 6 million were Chinese, according to the Korea Tourism Orgsation.
Moreover, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Chinese and Koreans engaged themselves in a digital war over the origins of delicacies, dress and even acupuncture. Needless to say, it got personal, and ugly, reported SCMP.
The reaction to the development of Korea-China Culture Town suggests, sadly, that such sentiments could outlast the pandemic, too, wrote Mercedes Hutton.
( With inputs from ANI )
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